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Dear Editor,

As almost any public school board member or superintendent can tell you, many of our state’s citizens are screaming for property tax reform while also being fully supportive of adequately funding our public schools.

According to a poll conducted by “Reform for Nebraska’s Future,” 77% of respondents indicated they were supportive of property tax reform. The vast majority of our elected officials at the state level even campaigned on the promise of property tax reform, and for good reason.

Nebraska K-12 schools receive 49% of their funding from local property taxes while the national average is 29%. (U.S. Census Bureau, Public Education Finance, 2016 – Based on 2014 Survey Data.)

Nebraska K-12 schools receive 33% of their funding from state sources while the national average is 47%. (U.S. Census Bureau, Public Education Finance, 2016 – Based on 2014 Survey Data.)

Nebraska ranks 49th in the country in the percentage of K-12 funding that comes from the state. (U.S. Census Bureau, Public Education Finance Report, June, 2016

The school funding formula, TEEOSA, which was implemented back in 1990, has only been fully funded two or three times over the past 15 or 16 years. In most instances, due to increasing needs, the TEEOSA calculation comes out more expensive than the state wants to allocate, so in order for the state to “balance” their budget, they underfund schools and force us to make up the difference with local property taxes. That’s how this current system works.

Some folks like to blame “spending” as the culprit for high property taxes but it’s really a funding issue. Many of the school districts most reliant on local property taxes, like York, have an annual average spending increase of less than 1.6% over the past eight years. York’s state equalization aid has plummeted from $3.7 million to $225,000 in that same span as land valuations increased. We have a school funding problem, folks.

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Our state senators must decide soon whether they want to represent their constituents, the 77% of Nebraskans that are calling for property tax reform, or if they will succumb to a few very wealthy and powerful people instead. How our state senators handle various bills down the stretch will show us who they truly care about.

Mike Lucas

Superintendent of York Public Schools

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